View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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Is now a good time to buy a house in France?

This is a question I am being asked more than usual right now thanks to various factors that include Brexit, Trump, Macron, unaffordable house prices in many countries, economic austerity, climate change and people generally living longer and wanting a better life-work balance.

The short answer to the question is, of course; ‘yes, it is always a good time to buy in France’. The longer answer is more complicated but fundamentally comes down to the reasons behind why you are thinking of buying a house here.

I can only answer for this region of France and I am biased of course but I would say that if you are looking for a better quality of life, for more house and land for your money, for beautiful countryside, stunning mountain views, lots of opportunities for walking, cycling, skiing and fabulous local produce, then the answer is yes. If you are looking for a property that is going to make you money over a short time as purely an economic investment, then the answer is probably no.

Having said that, as a safe place to secure your money, I can’t think of many better options right now. The country’s cautious banks have helped France’s economy to stay stable amid wider uncertainty and France remains a ‘safe-haven’ for property buyers with exceptionally low mortgage rates. In addition, French stone property still looks like very good value – prices have stayed relatively steady, the government and the economy of France are also more stable than most and, in the very worst case scenario, if everything else collapses around you, you still have a very nice, comfortable, well-built and usually rather lovely house to live in and escape the troubles of the world.

In this region, the continuing expansion of Toulouse international airport along with a huge increase in available routes all over the world, is certainly bringing new buyers into the area and keeping the economy strong. This is also a region with strong employment and a younger population with good universities and high tech industries such as Airbus attracting incomers from all over the world. Hence, while property is still very good value, foreign buyers thinking that they will be able to pick up property for almost nothing are likely to be disappointed and, if it looks too good to be true on a website, more often than not, it will be. Property prices are increasing gradually and I can’t see any reason for this not to continue right now so while there is no great rush, don’t take it for granted that property prices will remain low in France forever.

Who knows what is going to happen in the world in the coming decades but, when it comes to deciding where to buy a house, I have every confidence that, for anyone who wants a beautiful French home in a stunning location combined with a fantastic quality of life, great community, easy access and a lovely climate, this is one of the better places in the world to spend money on property and now is as good a time as any.

If you have a question about buying property in this region of France, please get in touch:

Are you a globalist or a nationalist?

If you are reading this, I would guess that you are the probably the former, maybe dreaming of living abroad at some point or at least having a bolthole somewhere other than the country in which you were born. There are plenty of us; in France alone there are approximately 7.8 million people who live here but were born elsewhere; that is 12% of the population. The UK has 8.5 million people living in the country who were born abroad (13% of the population), Spain 5.9 million (13% of the population) and Italy 5.8 million (9% of the population.) The UK also has 4.9 million citizens living abroad, more than any other country in the EU.

That is not to say that I believe being a globalist or a nationalist are mutually exclusive but, in the current climate, there is definitely an attitude of mind that leans one way or the other. I love Europe because of the diversity of each of the member countries and this individuality is something that I strongly believe should be safeguarded; a united Europe need not mean a Federal Europe. It is the idiosyncrasies, culture and traditions of each country which makes it special and interesting and surely the greater the diversity of thought and ways of living, the better.

Emmanuel Macron summed it up on his campaign trail when he said (slightly controversially of course) ‘There is no such thing as French culture. There is culture in France and it is diverse.’ And this is the fantastic thing about living in France; it is so large and so diverse that there is a place and a community for everyone to feel at home and accepted and to carve out a life that is both good for the individual but also for society as a whole.

For help with your property search in France, get in touch:

Are the French really lazy?

We are deep into the August vacances here in France and I am struggling to get hold of agents, owners and Notaires; it sometimes seems that everyone is on holiday (and nothing wrong with that; I am planning to join them very soon). This is of course exactly the image of France that is held across much of the world; that the French spend most of their time eating and drinking and as little time as possible actually working. It is the country of the 35-hour working week and endless long lunch breaks, both of which certainly exist and there is no doubt that the French work to live and not the other way around. Interestingly, however, productivity figures across Europe do not bear out this theory of the indolent Frenchman; quite the opposite in fact with France having one of the highest levels of productivity of any European country (Germany tops the polls) and certainly much higher than the UK.

So is this another French paradox along with staying slim and healthy on a diet of red wine, croissants and cheese? Well of course, there are always two sides to every story and numerous sides to every statistic but, in my experience over the last 15 years of living in France, one of the great myths about the French is indeed that they don’t work very hard. This seems to have arisen mainly through envy of visitors to the country seeing that every day the café terraces are full at most of times of day in every village and town, large and small and that everything stops for lunch.

In this respect, they are right but what most people don’t see is that many jobs begin at 8am (even school starts at 8) and finish at 7pm. And that is just for employees. Once you start asking those in self-employment about the hours they work, you will find that 7am – 8pm is not at all uncommon and it is the same for many professions. Our local doctor starts surgery at 7.30am and is still to be found seeing patients at 9pm. I recently had to have a course of antibiotics and the district nurse (one of a team) came to the house every day to give the injections – he told me he often started at 7am and finished at 9pm. Our dentist works from 8.30am until 9pm Monday to Friday. Our local shop is run by a couple who are there six days a week from very early to very late. Likewise the pharmacy is 8am – 8pm and then all night one day a week. Even our local garage is a one man band and he usually starts at 7am and does a 12 or 13 hour day. I could go on but you get the picture. There might not be the rush and stress in the air in France as there are in many countries and almost everyone takes the time to sit down for a proper meal at lunchtime but don’t mistake quality of life for laziness because, in my experience, this could not be further from the truth.

On that note, I am taking some holiday from next week until the end of the month so I wish you all a formidable fin d’été and look forward to helping you find your dream homes in September. If you need help with your property search, you can get in touch any time:



Britons top the list of foreign buyers in France

Following an initial drop off in buyers from the UK immediately following Brexit, there has recently been a surge of new enquiries and purchasers perhaps as a result of the proposal that people who move to Europe before the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020 will keep their rights as European residents in France.

The British remain top of the list of buyers in France with 25.9% of transactions in 2017, followed by Belgians with 18.4%, the Swiss 8.1% and Germans 7%.

Interestingly, however, the type of purchase has changed since the Brexit vote according to the latest report by BNP Paribas. The majority of British buyers in France are now planning a permanent move to France, purchasing property as their main residence (up 17%) while the number buying holiday homes or investment properties has dropped nearly 18%.

In addition, sterling is taking a huge hit with the prospect of a no deal Brexit becoming more likely and will potentially go through the floor if this scenario does indeed become a reality (let’s hope not and please ignore any currency advice, I get it wrong every time but I can put you in touch with experts if you are thinking of buying in France and want to talk through the currency options.) Hence, it appears that many Brits have decided that it is now or never to realize that dream of moving to France.

If you need help in finding your property, please get in touch: